Lyft riders may get early taste of self-driving tech from Google’s Waymo

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Cars driving for ride-hailing service Lyft may soon sport lidar
sensors alongside the pink logo and Amp dash display.

The company is teaming up with Alphabet’s Waymo subsidiary, the
autonomous vehicle business spun out of Google. 

Details on the deal, reported by the New York Times
and later confirmed by the two companies, are vague.

Under the deal, the companies will work together on pilot
projects and product development efforts to make autonomous
vehicles mainstream, the newspaper said, citing two anonymous
sources.

But Lyft has made no secret of its interest in self-driving
vehicle technology.

Last March General Motors invested $500 million in the company
and then in May said they would work together to
test self-driving electric Chevrolet Bolts
on the roads.

By September, Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer was

telling
reporters that, within five years, most of the
company’s rides will be self-driving.

There’s a big difference between the kind of self-driving
vehicles GM is developing now, which are semi-autonomous and
still have a steering wheel for a driver to take over in an
emergency, and the ones Waymo is testing, which don’t.

Waymo’s autonomous driving technology leaves all seats free for
passengers, while Lyft drivers in semi-autonomous vehicles like
those of GM might find a new role as greeters, or for helping
passengers with luggage.

By allying with Lyft, Alphabet is backing two of the biggest
players in the ride-hailing industry. The other one is Uber, in
which Alphabet’s investment arm, Google Ventures, owns a
significant stake — and with which Waymo is embroiled in a
legal battle over allegations of intellectual property theft.
The Lyft deal may be as much about gaining leverage in that
battle as it is about testing Waymo’s vehicles in more places,
something it can do perfectly well by itself.

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